What GCSEs should I take to become a... ?

At some point in secondary school you will need to choose your GCSE options. This can seem scary at first, but it’s all about perspective: this is your opportunity to take hold of the wheel and start to shape your own future.

Most further education courses, whether at school, sixth form, college or university, will expect you to have GCSEs (or equivalent Level 2 qualifications) in English Language, Maths and Science, so it’s likely that your school will make these three subjects compulsory.

You will, however, need to choose your additional subjects. If you’re the kind of person who already has a good idea about what career they want in the future, it might pay to work backwards. Think: my end goal is to be a doctor - how do I get there?

There is a wealth of information available online, or through your school careers advisor – but to give you a head start, we’ve looked at some popular career choices and found out exactly which options you should take to kick-start your journey to your dream job.

Scroll down to explore careers or skip to the ones that interest you.

What GCSEs should I take to become a civil engineer?

Definitely: Maths; English Language; Science

Think about: Engineering

There are several routes into becoming a civil engineer: an apprenticeship, college course or university degree. You’ll usually need at least five GCSEs (or equivalent Level 2 qualifications) at grade 4/C or above, including Maths, English Language and Science.

Most university degrees ask that you have studied Maths and/or Physics at A-level, so if your schools offers separate Science subjects, make sure to take Physics so you can carry it through.

Some schools offer GCSEs in Engineering and you might consider taking this if you’re set on this career path, although it isn’t compulsory.

What GCSEs should I take to become a doctor or a dentist?

Definitely: Maths; English Language; Science

Think about: a spread of other subjects that you enjoy

To work in the medical profession, you will need at least seven GCSEs (or equivalent Level 2 qualifications) including Science, English Language and Maths. Science may be a Double or Triple Award. If your school offers separate science qualifications, you will need to take at least two, preferably Biology and Chemistry, although it would be wise to take all three. Courses are competitive, so you should be aiming for grade 6/B or higher in all subjects.

As Maths, English and Science are generally compulsory at GCSE, this leaves you free to fill the rest of your quota with subjects that you will enjoy. To qualify for a medical degree at university, your A-levels will need to be heavily Maths and Science based, so enjoy some variation while you can before you specialise!

Meet Inshal

What GCSEs should I take to become a lawyer?

Definitely: Maths; English Language; Science

Think about: History; Geography; a Modern Foreign Language; English Literature

To study law, you'll need at least five GCSEs (or equivalent Level 2 qualifications) at grade 4/C or above, including Maths, English Language and Science. Courses are competitive, so you should aim for the highest grades possible.

When awarding places, many universities prefer you to have taken traditional academic subjects at A-level (such as History, Geography, Modern Foreign Languages, English Literature or Language, Science and Maths) so think carefully about what you choose now because it might dictate what you can carry through. It won’t be easy to pick up a Spanish A-level, for example, if you haven’t studied it at GCSE!

History, Geography, Modern Foreign Languages and English Literature are often encouraged for potential lawyers as they can help to broaden your awareness of global and political issues.

What GCSEs should I take to become a midwife?

Definitely: Maths; English Language or Literature; Science

Think about: Health and Social Care

To secure a place on a midwifery course, you will usually need a minimum of five GCSEs (or equivalent Level 2 qualifications) at grade 4/C or above, including English Language or Literature, Maths and at least one Science subject. You'll then need to go on and take A-levels (or equivalent Level 3 qualifications), so think about what you might like to study in more detail and choose your options appropriately.

You might consider taking Health and Social Care as one of your options if your school offers it, although this isn’t a requirement.

Meet Khadija

What GCSEs should I take to become a psychologist?

Definitely: Maths; English Language; Science

Think about: Statistics

The first step on the journey to becoming a psychologist is to have gained five GCSEs (or equivalent Level 2 qualifications) at grade 4/C or above. These should include Maths, English Language and Science. You'll need to go on to take A-levels (or equivalent Level 3 qualifications), probably including at least one Science, so think about what you'd like to carry through when making your choices.

If your school offers Statistics, you may also benefit from taking this, although it isn’t a requirement.

What GCSEs should I take to become a teacher?

Definitely: Maths; English Language; Science

Think about: the subject that you want to teach and any associated subjects

You will need to achieve at least a grade 4/C in GCSE Maths, English Language and Science (or an equivalent Level 2 qualification). Your other options really depend on the subject that you see yourself teaching.

If you know that you want to be a Geography teacher, for instance, make sure that you take Geography as one of your options! If you want to teach English, you might consider also taking Drama as the two subjects have considerable overlap.

If you’re not sure yet, or are thinking about primary teaching, take the subjects that you enjoy and are good it. Many teachers end up in teaching because they love their subject, so keep your options open, follow your heart, and then specialise later.

Meet Shola
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What GCSEs should I take to become an accountant?

Definitely: Maths; English Language

Think about: traditional academic subjects

To become an accountant you will need to complete training with one of the professional accountancy bodies. You can start your journey to becoming an accountant in a variety of ways – through an apprenticeship or a college course, or after your A-levels or university degree. For most routes you’ll need at least five GCSEs (or equivalent Level 2 qualifications) including Maths and English Language at grade 4/C or above.

If you plan to study accountancy at university, bear in mind that they often prefer you to have taken traditional academic subjects at A-level or Level 3 (such as History, Economics, Geography, Modern Foreign Languages, English Literature or Language, Science and Maths) so think carefully about what you choose now because it might dictate what you can carry through in future. You'll find it tricky to pick up History at A-level, for example, if you haven't studied it at GCSE!

What GCSEs should I take to become a vet?

Definitely: Maths; English Language; Science

Think about: a spread of other subjects that you enjoy

To qualify for veterinary school you will need at least five GCSEs (or equivalent Level 2 qualifications) including Maths, English Language and Science. Science may be a Double or Triple Award. If your school offers separate science qualifications you will need to take at least two, preferably Biology and Chemistry, although it would be wise to take all three. Courses are competitive, so you should be aiming for grade 6/B or higher in all subjects.

Your A-Levels (or equivalent Level 3 qualifications) will need to be heavily Maths and Science based, so choose options that you enjoy to fill your quota now, then specialise later.

Meet Lucy

What GCSEs should I take to become a police officer?

Definitely: Maths; English Language; Science

Think about: Physical Education; Religious Education; a Modern Foreign Language

There are a few routes into becoming a police officer, but you’ll need around 5 GCSEs (or equivalent Level 2 qualifications) at grade 4/C or above, to access most courses. These should include Maths, English and preferably a Science.

Physical Education might also be a good option as, when applying to become a police officer, you will need to pass a fitness test. It also teaches you skills such as teamwork and leadership which are very important in the police force.

As a police officer you will also be expected to have good interpersonal skills and be open-minded. Subjects such as Citizenship, Religious Education and Modern Foreign Languages may help you to understand the communities that you work in a bit better from a political, religious or cultural perspective.

What GCSEs should I take to become a pilot?

Definitely: Maths; English Language; Science

Think about: Physics

For most flight training courses you will need at least five GCSEs (or equivalent Level 2 qualifications) at grade 4/C or above, including Maths, English Language and Science.

A good grasp of Physics is especially important for a pilot so, if your school offers separate Science qualifications, be sure to choose Physics and consider taking it through to A-level (Level 3).

Meet Zuzanna
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What GCSEs should I take to become an architect?

Definitely: Maths; English Language; Science

Think about: Art; Design Technology

To train as an architect you will need five good GCSEs (or equivalent Level 2 qualifications) at grade 4/C or above, including Maths, English Language and Science.

In addition, you will need to be able to draw or sketch out diagrams, so subjects such as Art, Graphics or Design Technology would be useful. Consider continuing one of these through to A-level (Level 3) as many architecture courses require to see a portfolio of creative work when you apply.

What GCSEs should I take to become a laboratory technician?

Definitely: Maths; English Language; Science

Think about: a spread of other subjects that you enjoy

You can become a lab technician by completing an apprenticeship, college course or university degree. To access any of these routes, you’ll usually need at least five GCSEs (or equivalent Level 2 qualifications) at grade 4/C or above, including Maths, English Language and Science.

If your school offers separate Science qualifications, make sure to take all three (Physics, Chemistry and Biology) – whatever route you take into this career, you will need to be a Science specialist.

Meet Zahra
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If decision-making is getting you down, don’t forget that you can talk to your school careers advisor.

Alternatively, take a look at the following support and reignite your positive vibes.

How to keep motivated and believe in yourself
Forging your own path
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